Saturday, November 15, 2014

Commuting in the Green Goot

As I watched the Saturday morning news, a young boy pressed the detonator and down fell the many stories of the former, Executive Park Motel off Druid Hills Road.  With its demolition, the motel and office park adjacent to it will make way for a Children’s Healthcare facility.
Found this on a website, somewhere....
Feeling nostalgic and sad, I watched as another part of my past closes.
In the winter of 1972, my friend Gloria and I joined a relatively new program at Sylvan Hills High School -- work study. In the last quarter of our senior year and most of the required classes for a high school diploma completed, we enrolled in the work program.
Leaving school at noon, we took a part time job, found for us by Gloria’s mother’s cousin, and began a new phase of our life – separation from high school and the possibilities of the future.
Hired as proof-readers at C&S Optimation, an ancillary of a local bank, we embarked on the world of office work, responsibility, and freedom. We felt very sophisticated – but we were ingĂ©nues, and very, silly ones.
In my senior year of high school, I had a bad case of “done.”  May of 1971 saw the graduation of my closest friends, whom I shared with my brother Kenneth{who is only 18 months older}, as well as Vaughn, my “high school” boyfriend; I felt rather “over” the idea of high school and ready to move on – to whatever was next.
Senior photo, taken fall of 1971
Noticing my restlessness, my parents approved of the work program, even though none of my siblings had done such, and my getting a job. When the opportunity arose through Gloria’s relative, I felt freed and looked to it as a move in the right direction. Yes. This had to be better than yet another PE class, elective, or working in the office of the principal as a student aide.
Living on the south side of Atlanta, the job at C&S required transportation, a car, as it was located off north I-85 at Druid Hills Road in an office in the new Executive Park complex. With all of my siblings in college, my parents allowed me the privilege of “driving to school,” a perk that my brother Kenneth and I had enjoyed the year before as well. 
Not our car -- but this is one like it -- well, it could be the  same one, living well in retirement. In Kansas?
With him graduated, I had the car all to myself, and needless to say, I did some crazy, random things behind that wheel, but that’s another story.
Before I took the part time work at C&S, the fall of 1971 had been one of “killing time.” The Green Goot, the so called nick name of the 1969 Chevrolet Bel Air I drove, became the car that my friends and I dove in to go places [before my parents got home from work]. With two bench seats, we could get four in the front and six in the back – if we needed – after all, this was the 70s. No required seat belt laws and obviously before we became the “ample sized” people we are now. J Pretty sure that the law stated only three people in the front, but we waved that off as being short-sighted and un-economical, and of course, we were not going to get caught for breaking that silly law.
That fall, I drove a carload of nine to McDonald’s for “off campus” lunch;  we enjoyed two cheeseburgers, French fries, Coke, and a hot apple pie for about 1.25. For driving every day to McDonald’s, my friend Jonathan on most days paid for my lunch since my parents’ frugality dictated that I brown bag  --- they never would have been frivolous enough to allow me to fast food it. On some days, I happily ate my peanut butter sandwich while my friends shared their fries.  I really don’t know how I got away with this little side-trip each day to McDonald’s. Rest-assured there was no permission sign off by my parents – the school offered the opportunity in the new thinking 70s, and we just did it. It was a different world. A trusting one at that.
Gloria, center, and I, circa 1970

We also piled in the car after school and rode around, again with friends chipping in quarters to fill up the tank[gas a mere 36 cents a gallon]. We drove the roads of southwest Atlanta and jumped on and off the interstate on a whim to go to downtown Atlanta, Stone Mountain, the airport, or to 14th Street to see the hippies. With a short time of freedom between after school and when my parents got home from work, I ran and rode with abandon and without supervision.
My father never said much about it even though I’m sure he noticed the mileage on the odometer. He was wise enough to pick his battles – and riding around? Not one of them.  
FTR:  Daddy required that I record my mileage, the price of gas, and the number of gallons [not in round numbers – but 8.32 or whatever] in a small notebook stashed in the glove compartment, a notebook that he checked to compute the miles per gallon and such… a habit he kept about his cars until his death.
With the job at C&S Optimation, the world changed for me. Gloria and I finished our third period class, sprinted to the Green Goot, and high-tailed it to Lakewood Freeway and the fifteen mile commute to the north side and our “big” job.
Swinging onto the exit ramp onto Druid Hills, we turned right and then flipped another right into the Executive Park Office Park and parked in front of C&S Optimation and our job. 
Executive Park office building, built in 1967
Gloria, at LaGrange College, 1974
As the only high school students employed, we appeared fresh faced and un-tapped. The other employees, being full time, were, of course, adults, most of them much older, but there was a smattering of employees who were in their early to mid-twenties.
Gloria and I admired the pretty young girls who worked there with their modern fashion of short skirts and polyester pant suits, teased hair, and freedom to smoke in the break room; we ogled and dangerously flirted with the young men who occupied the front offices, their mysterious work unknown to us. What were we thinking – seventeen-year old girls trying to draw the attention of men in their mid-twenties? Thankfully, they rebuffed us and kept us from being beyond stupid.
Our first job was the proof-reading of loans, which had been typed by the women in a room full of IBM Selectric typewriters. I loved those electric typewriters, the first I had used as the typing class I took in high school had us pounding out on manual typewriters at 35 words a minute, our fingers strengthened with the Herculean effort of “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” that taught us the key stroke of every letter of the alphabet.
The distinct sound of the rapid clicking of the electric keyboard could always be heard from anywhere in the office space   – never was that room quiet – unless it was five-o-clock. Always amazed at how the typists timed their exits -- purse in hand, green plastic covers neatly pulled down over the Selectrics, and the keys to their VWs, Pintos, and Civics in hand when the big, round clock at the front hit five.
The women who typed the loans were not only fast – but very accurate; however, the loans, mostly for cars, had to be proof-read in case of errors – mostly in number amounts, but occasionally words – like 24oz car instead of 240 Z. Most of the number errors were reversals – from fast typing --- 3999 might come out as 9399.  A big difference, eh?
Hard to believe cars were ever that price.
The best part of the proof reading was the stapler remover placed in the trusty hands of the reader. Not one of the institution issued, pinch-y, brown toothed ones I was used to from high school aide work, but a slender, sleek, chrome designed one that fit easily under the staple for removal. I coveted that office goody, and when I left that job in September, the supervisor gifted one to me --- I kept that staple remover in my classroom for over thirty years, and one of the hard and fast learned rules in my classroom was that it was not to be touched without permission from me.  Ha. I still have it – proudly carried home to my own office when I retired from teaching.
The supervisor over the proof-readers was a no-nonsense, eagle-eyed woman who never missed a hyphen. After I proof-read the loan for mistakes, she signed off on it, and even though I was fairly good at this job [I mean, totally not hard], she amazed me at the things she could see with a cursory glance.
Gloria and I shivered under her gaze. She was eerily exact.
At some point, Gloria and I were promoted to the typing room – I don’t know how long we worked as proofers, but when we graduated from that, we sighed in relief. We had showed our mettle and had arrived at the big time – the typing pool.
Equally boring as proof-reading, the typing of car loans got old pretty fast – how interesting could the name, address, and phone number of prospective car buyers be? To relieve the boredom, Gloria and I got into some fits and giggles over names we found humorous, but it never took much of anything to send us into hysterics.  Oh yeah, independent working women – not.
The challenge of the loan typing came with the numbers that had to be typed into relatively, small spaces. A good typist [like we became] mastered the tab with a muscle memory and easily or automatically hit it to put the numbers in the right spaces. At this job, I learned to type not only fast and fairly accurately, but also to type numbers pretty rapidly from the top row of the typewriter. Some of the Selectrics had key-pads, and once I learned that little accessory, well, dang, numbers were easy.
Loved these beasts!!
The job though --- yeah, repetitive…and frankly, mind numbing. So, Gloria and I grew to entertain ourselves with looks, giggles, and a silent code that only we could translate.
At first, Gloria and I sat next to each other at our typewriters. Not smart on our part. Cracking up over nothing, we snorted behind our hands, rolled our eyes at stuff, and alerted the attention of the supervisor. She promptly separated us like the silly, teenagers we were, but we managed somehow to giggle even though we were typewriter rows apart. I don’t know why we wern't fired – maybe as a favor to Gloria’s VIP relative, or maybe we weren't as bad as I thought we were – maybe we were responsible employees – showing up, literate, and effective. As I remember it though, we were quite immature.
Executive Business Park, built in the late 1960s and along the I-85 corridor, considered itself prime real estate. Easy access to the interstate, not far from the new I-285 perimeter, the sleek office park with its air-conditioned spaces, big rooms painted in beige with cushy wall to wall carpeting, and large windows commanded a fair amount of money per square foot. Up and coming businesses rented and bought space in its sprawling acreage – and for the time, it was the place to be.
Of course, Gloria and I didn’t care about that – we liked our minimum wage pay-check --- about 48 dollars week, and we secured that job to go full time in the summer before we headed off to college in the fall.
On the longer commute home in the five-o’clock traffic, Gloria and I dreamed about our futures, gossiped about the older guys at work, superstitiously made wishes as we passed under bridges with trains crossing, changed lanes to follow good-looking boys in cars [we once convinced ourselves that the long-haired man in a Porsche was Pete Maravich, pro-basketball player for the Atlanta Hawks, and chased him], and set ourselves up as career gals as we made our minimum wage and saved our money for college.
So as I watched the demolition of the Executive Park Hotel, I thought of over forty years ago, that office park with its modern world effects and my excursion into what I saw as the stylish work place.
Who was that young girl? She’s gone and so is Executive Park.

Gloria and I -- 2014

Note: The taking on of a job while I was in high school totally removed me from the school scene. Missing half a day meant missing the drama; this disconnect from school had its merits. As Gloria and I took on the work program, we didn’t know we sat at the beginning of a trend --- the program for work study only got more popular with high school students.. By the time I was teaching high school in the mid 1990s, the drama of adolescence had moved for a huge proportion of students – from the school room to the work place. Was this a good thing?